On boxes and other permeable divides

I like to put people in general boxes for easy sorting, but keeping in mind that people are messy and tend to leak out of boxes I thought were tidy. I tend to not fit most boxes and find them constricting, so I try to keep that in mind for other people. I’ve also found that, not having access to the entirety of another person’s thoughts and experiences, I am often COMPLETELY WRONG about which box I put them in and totally surprised when they pop up in another box that I wouldn’t have thought to put them in. Things would be a lot simpler if these things were simpler. The problem becomes if a person is judged for being in a certain box. That’s where I have a problem with labels and boxes . Some people just want to know whether you are “for or against” them and that is a very black and white way to live in a world that is permeated with the entire gradation from black to white and transmuted by variations of shadow and light.


Years ago I was reading a book about Attention Deficit Disorder and one of the things she talked about was not to always be negative about the things you struggle with. She recommended trying to put a positive spin on things. For example, don’t dwell on being bad at organization, but consider that you are really good at taking things apart and rearranging them.

I wish I was able to remember what book it was so I could go back and find out what word she used. It was a specific word for that creative disorder and reorder that some of us are so good at. It may have been an art term, but I haven’t come across it in my art studies. Over the last few years, I’ve tried to look it up in other places because I feel that as an artist and as a human my main function is to blur those lines of demarcation that are so boldly etched between divisive labels, categories, or so-called boxes.

Many (uh, all) of the these divisions are not as clear cut as you might think. There is a lot of crisscrossing and overlap if you only look a little harder. People and things that don’t fit strongly into a clearly marked box are often overlooked or rejected in favor of clarity and ease of description. Which is fine if you are willing to reject reality. Because the truth is that messy and disordered and uncategorizable is the essence of life. In life, in art, in science, and in nature you can always find things and people and behaviors that don’t follow the mainstream and the usual “rules.”

I feel that a militant stance on any one rule or set of rules usually covers a fear of the unknown and where you might fit into that unknown, new hierarchy if the status quo is status quashed. Take, for example,  Art vs Craft. I understand the need to elevate the role of the artist to something beyond the ordinary. I benefit highly from that distinction and do not treat it cavalierly. The trouble comes when an artist, or a fine craftsman, as they like to say, takes skill and imagination to a place that is not inside those categories, but somewhere in the middle. I wield glue nearly as often as I do a brush or pencil. Other artists use what are traditionally considered crafts in such new and innovative ways, or at such a “high level” that they bump Craft into the category of Art.

There is plenty of room inside Art for everything. For all of it.

When I was a teen I was in love with the bartender character in the movie Cocktail. I was planning to do what he did. Bartend in the islands somewhere during the winter and back here the rest of the time. After a detour or two, I did eventually become a bartender. While I wasn’t the jetsetting bartender that I had envisioned, I did learn about mixing and pouring drinks and some of what it takes to run a bar.

I wasn’t a bad bartender. But, to be honest, I am not quite social enough to do it for very long before I get burned out. Some people are hardwired in a way that makes them ideal for it.  A really good bartender is one part accountant, one part scientist, and three parts showman, with a shot of flair and a splash of crazy. Mix with ice, shake, pour and watch the magic unfold.

But they don’t all invent new drinks. I think that a mixologist is a bartender who can envision how things might taste together and tinkers and tries it until it comes to fruition. This way of seeing is a unique gift to have. The ability to look out past the is to the can be and then to follow your line of sight out into the future is kinda magical.

That’s why I’ve decided that I already have my word for someone who mixes, blends, blurs, connects, rearranges, reassembles, remakes, creates, invents, explores, and just generally muddles things around until they are a new being.
I am a mixologist.

Bar’s open.

Man Up Monday: Football

My Dear Son,

I know that you love football. I could rail against the violence and cookie cutter gender roles that so obviously are present in this sport and its portrayal in the media. I will not. I will teach you that even within this sport there are many different roles played out. There is a vital role on the team for multiple types of masculinity if we only look.

The more traditional definition of masculinity can be found in the linemen. Big and strong, they give and take the brunt of the physical force bandied about in this battle. You have your daddy’s build, a longer, leaner body type that probably won’t lend itself to the linebacker model. Perhaps you will be a running back. In this role the man is not large and built for blocking. He is more slender. He is fleet of foot. He relies upon his eyes to show him the way through the opposition to reach his goals. With help from his teammates, he is able to use his quick reflexes and agile body to navigate across this minefield to where he can coordinate his feet, hands, eyes, and mind in concert to catch the passes thrown to him.

The linchpin of a football team on the field is the quarterback. Of course, the quarterback needs physical strength and nimble feet in order to fill his role on the team. But the quarterback, more than anything else, must be smart. He needs to be able to see the bigger picture, make quick decisions, and implement those decisions into actions while in the face of adversity in the form of the players on the other team. If it is my choice, I think you will make a great quarterback one day. But none of these players would win this game without the other players.

We also must mention in our roles of masculinity the role of the coach. I hope that we remember the coach as knowledgeable leader who has played the game before and is able to show you how to play, how to maximize your talents, and how you will best be an asset to the team. Do not mistake aging for losing strength. While it is true that the coach might not run as fast as you can, he has the knowledge to see things that you can’t and choose the play that will allow for the best possible outcome.

All of these positions are legitimate, valid pictures of strength. It takes all of them to make it possible to have a good game and win at it. Remember that in many ways football is all about life, but in no way is life all about football.


Significant Other

My instructor in Gender and Race in Political Thought class wears an earring. Of course, that doesn’t mean much any more. On the first day of class someone asked him about it (because it is really a nice design). He explained where he got it from and that his partner wore the other one. So, I can safely put him in the gay category. (I don’t judge, but I’m a human–we like labels.) As the class goes on, the course of conversation reveals that his partner is a she. Okay, take him out of the gay category and put him in the straight, but not married box. See me with my label maker running around making sure I know what’s what.

Then I got to thinking about it.

Maybe he uses the term consciously because he is an advocate for gender equality and all other equality and feels that partner is an accurate and equitable term. So I was going to ask him about it. But I got all caught up in the HOW of how to ask the question so I would be clear.

“Do you call your partner partner because she’s your partner or…” wait- that’s not clear.

Maybe a different word would help. So I tried again.

“Do you call your significant other your partner because of–

–Bleh that sounds even worse!

I thought about it in terms of my own life.

I am married. To a husband. (nice, easy prepackaged labels there.) And yet…

I hope (and think) the phrase Life Partner is just as accurate, if not more accurate, than husband or wife conveys. There are many ways to cohabit and then label that cohabitation. You wouldn’t have to do this at all if you never spoke to another human. But if you plan on doing that, then you will probably end up referencing your “significant other” in some way.

What the hell is a Significant Other?

Here is my problem with significant other as a term for your mate(!).

I am pretty sure I have never met an Insignificant Other. Except maybe that one guy I dated when I was 20. But even he was probably not Insignificant to his mother or friends or family. So we are all Significant Others.

If we stop and think about it, it is really hard to find a label that fits  comfortably and accurately describes what goes in to making a life together. We fall back on the easy traditional terms, because it is so difficult.

Partner is probably the next easiest label to use.